Against Bashing Greece : The Greek Utopia

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Constantakopoulos: One of the major problems: Very few serious young men or women wants to become a politician. Would you want your son or daughter to go to politics? If I ask that in my neighbourhood, I am not sure how many yes I would get. If we bring down the politicians into the eyes of our peers and future generations, who is going to run our country?

It is the same in Germany. We have a negative selection of some sorts. Nobody wants to be a politician anymore.

Boutaris: You know, the politician, if he doesn’t hear some, well done, bravo, why would he do it? If you are not going there to make money, he has at least to hear some well done.

Retsos: Stelios, your father is mayor of Saloniki - he must have some experience. (Laughter) I read a lot about him  - very good things.

Boutaris: He is trying. It is taking much longer than he ever expected. If there is one thing that he has a problem with, it is the procedures and structures. This is the biggest problem. The processes are slow and so difficult to overcome; they are made for you to do nothing, unless there is somebody, a politician, who moves things forward. That is how the whole public system is structured.

May I ask you one last historical question, which is very much discussed in Germany? When in the Summit was in Cannes, Papandreou went back and said that he wants to have a referendum about the euro. Do you remember that?

Several together: Of course … (Laughter). Who could forget?

So, my question is, because we have Habermas who then intervened and said, because Schäuble said, “This is ruining the market” And then we had a vivid debate: are not the society and democracies more important than the market? My question to you is: Was Papandreou right, or was he wrong?

Olympios: With my hand on my heart I believe he was a hundred percent correct. Yes the timing was wrong and the execution was awful but I have not heard of any other idea that would have stabilized Greece, aligned Europe, erased the fear of GRexit allowing Greece cheaper money and privatization to race ahead without the country risk. Also keep in mind you would have had a 70 to 80 percent majority for the Euro which in turn means acceptance of the austerity measures.

Most importantly the referendum would have individuals, politicians, business leaders, media and other elites individually responsible for the future, no more bluffing and no more utopian promises that corrupt the public debate. I was shocked by the European response and to this day cannot see the fiscal/political or social advantages of not holding the referendum.

Veremis: But, the execution was atrocious. Even if the thought might have been interesting; to win a referendum, you need to prepare it, phrase it correctly, and mark it.

If you would have done a referendum, because at that time the whole European Union was shocked by the imagination that Greek would switch… So, the Europeans and the Germans would have had to find ways to convince the Greek. This would have been a kind of rationalising.

Retsos: You never draw your gun unless you are ready to use it. Papandreou proved that he drew his gun, but he never thought that he had to use it. from the first moment, we knew that it was just a bluff, and I think it was a disastrous bluff.

We thank you very much for this intense discussion. Evcharisto!

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